Posted tagged ‘charity’

Married To A Spontaneously Kind Person

October 7, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      October 7, 2018

                          

We were sitting in Cracker Barrel enjoying an unscheduled dinner out after a hectic day of substitute teaching and coaching (me) and watching the grandkids (Carol) for our oldest daughter and teacher, Kecia, who had parent-teacher conferences. Our conversation traveled through the wanderings of our days…the things the kids said, the players for the 8th Grade basketball team that I was deciding on, and national news items.

And then she was up!

A table of three sat behind us and to my left. I had noticed people sitting there on our way in, but I hadn’t given it another thought. Carol had! She went back to their table as they were finishing their meal. They were three senior citizens, one in a wheelchair, one with a cane, and the third now pushing the wheelchair as they began to leave. I heard conversation and thank you’s, but I didn’t know what exactly was happening. 

And then Carol brought their meal check back to our table and put it on top of our own check. “We’re paying for their meals!” 

“Okay,” I agree, knowing that it really isn’t a vote that she’s asking for. It is just how it is!

The three people are hobbling out as I say to Carol, “Well, I’d better go pay this so they don’t think they’re trying to sneak out (An impossibility taking into account their lack of speed and that they have a wheelchair!). I’ll be right back!”

The three thank me again as I come up behind them. The looks on their faces are priceless. Someone had done something really, really nice for them that had taken them back. I could tell that they’d be talking about it for the rest of the evening.

My wife is like that. She is spontaneously kind. She’ll give a quarter to a kid who is short on change for the candy he wants to buy at 7-11. She will ask someone who looks like they might be confused or lost or both if she can help them in some way. When our daughter calls at the last minute to see if Mom can watch one of the grandkids who has suddenly become ill Carol is out the door before she ends the cell phone call. 

Her kindness is sometimes scheduled, but, more often than not, is spontaneous…lived out in the doings of the day. She would tell you that the Lord led her to pick up the check for those three people. It just happened. In the midst of eating her bacon and eggs God cleared her vision to see what she needed to do. 

When I say “cleared her vision”, what you probably don’t know is that she had a cornea transplant operation thirty years ago because of a disease called “Keratoconus”, which is a gradual deterioration of the cornea. Her vision will never be good. She now plans her driving trips with “an eye” on when sunset is scheduled to occur because she does not like to drive in the dark anymore. 

Side note: Her vision at sporting events is always 20/20 however! She sees things that the officials miss all the time!

Spontaneous kindness! It’s who she is! She will open doors for people, and always say thank you to someone who opens the door for her. She’s also not afraid to give a piece of her mind to a middle school student who has someone be kind to him, but does not acknowledge it.

And the thing is, I see that tendency towards spontaneous kindness filtering down through the next two generations of our family. Kecia goes over and above for her third grade students and her school. I remember David, our middle child who is a restaurant chef, stopping at Chick-fil-a one morning on his way to work and buying a bag of chicken breakfast biscuits for his cooking staff just to say “Thank you!” Lizi, our youngest, works with families whose children qualify for Head Start and other resources. 

And now the three grandkids are showing tendencies towards being kind, not coerced to do so but rather out of the doings of daily life.

The three people walking out of Cracker Barrel with smiles as full as their satisfied tummies is just the latest blessing from the woman I married, and for the woman I married!

Self-Centered Generosity

December 30, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             December 30, 2017

                                     

The year 2018 will be a telling experience that will show just how generous middle-class Americans are. New tax laws will reduce the benefits “kinda”… for many of moderate-income to give to charitable organizations.

One of the changes in the new tax laws includes a doubling of the standard deduction. That means an individual filer can deduct $12,000 and a married couple $24,000 without itemizing their deductions. Estimates are that less than 10% of taxpayers will continue to itemize their deductions. Thus, the incentive to give to charity will go to how genuine a person’s generosity really is!

Except for this year! Charitable organizations are seeing an increase in giving as the year ends for givers to take advantage of itemizing deductions. In other words, some people are being charitable in 2017 who will think twice about giving next year. It smacks of self-centered generosity. “What do I get out of this?”

To be honest, churches have been scrambling for years to make ends meet. In 2016 the typical church attender gave about 2.5% of their income to their church. During the Great Depression of 1929 the percentage was estimated at 3.3%! Generosity has not exactly run roughshod through the pews as things are. Now most ministries are expecting a decrease in giving to budgets that are already looking pretty threadbare!

So 2018 will be a year of indicators! Are Americans, especially followers of Jesus, generous or only generous when it helps their tax burden?

It’s not like there won’t be people in need next year. In Colorado Springs there are not enough available beds to take care of the growing homeless situation. The various shelters are looking for options to increase capacity, but more capacity requires more money to fund the ministries to the poor…and where will these funds come from?

The optimistic faith-based view of the coming situation is that the nation will see the heart of Jesus in the incredible outpouring of financial support from his followers; that Christians will take seriously Jesus’ directive to care for the poor, the widows, and the orphans. That’s a view that could indicate a spiritual renewal in our midst!

The pessimistic view is that the tax law changes will show just how greedy and self-centered we really are!

Wedding Guests

July 23, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               July 23, 2017

                                       

A week before her wedding was to take place Sarah Cummins and her fiancee called it off. A blow to the ego and a stab to the heart, but it was over! Wedding guests were contacted to alert them to the news. A host of details were scratched off the list that no longer had to be worried about, and a few were added as happens whenever something gets canceled.

But…Sarah was still on the hook for the wedding reception at an upscale reception location, and she did not want the $30,000 to go to waste, so she did something that drew national attention. She invited the homeless for a dinner party.

The venue booked for a plated dinner for 170 featured bourbon-glazed meatballs, roasted garlic bruschetta, and wedding cake. Several local businesses and residents donated suits, dresses, and other items for the guests to wear.

Sarah greeted and welcomed each of her guests when they arrived, including a dozen veterans.

And they partied!

Cummins made this comment. “For me, it was an opportunity to let these people know they deserved to be at a place like this just as much as everyone else does.”

Matthew 22 has a story about a wedding banquet. Although it has a few twists and turns, and disturbing points that Jesus puts into the parable to make a point, it ultimately gets to the same place that Sarah Cummins came to. As it says, “So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (Matthew 22:10)

     How do you turn a wedding reception into a non-stuffy party? Invite the people that are usually pushed to the side so that the reception can take place. Invite the people who live outside the margins of the acceptable, the ones who are expected to wait in the shadows and not be seen.

I wish there was a follow-up story on Sarah Cummins…like, maybe a year from now, because I’m curious how this unanticipated act of generosity impacts her life more than her bank account balance? What will be the ripple effect of her valuing of the disadvantaged?

And in one of those parallel ways, isn’t this a picture of the gospel? That those who had been distanced from God by the judgment of the righteous or, if you will, the original invited, are invited to join the party because the love of God is for everyone, not just a few!

In the heartache of a broken engagement I pray that Sarah Cummins will experience and abundance of blessings, that the smiling faces of the simple folk will continue to make her chuckle, and the tears of joy of the down-and-out will drench her sorrows and warm her soul.

The Red Kettle Bellringer

December 22, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     December 22, 2016

                                 

The ringing could be heard all over the parking lot of the grocery store. The seventy year old man waving the bell back and forth smiled at everyone who passed by regardless of whether they put something in his kettle or not. Most didn’t, but he engaged them with a greeting anyway.

A young woman with her four year old daughter approached on his right hoping to sneak by unnoticed. The bellringer turned as she was right beside him and shouted a greeting. “Merry Christmas to you and yours!” The greeting made her step back startled for a moment. “Would your little girl like a candy cane?”

The four year old looked up with delight and a smile from ear to ear. “I’m sure she would,” replied the mom. “I’m sorry, but I don’t have anything to put into the donation bucket.”

“That’s quite all right, ma’am! Perhaps you’ll be able to pass on the glad tidings to someone in another way…a kind word to a neighbor, a visit to someone in the hospital, or even saying a prayer for someone else in need. There always seems to be something that we can do to help this world be a bit more decent to be a part of.”

“Thank you! I’ll keep those things in mind.”

“Mr. Bellringer,“ came the soft voice of the young child. “Do you get to keep the money that you collect?”

“Lord, no, darling!” he chuckled. “This money goes to help some folk who don’t have food to eat or a bed to lay their head in. I’m just the man who has the privilege to ring the bell and hand out candy canes.” He turned to the left to wish another customer entering the store a merry Christmas. Another woman exiting walked by the red kettle and tucked a folded five dollar bill into the slit on top of the kettle. “Thank you, ma’am!”

“So, Mr. Bellringer-“

“Call me Mr. Sam, darling!”

“Mr. Sam, what do you get for standing here and ringing the bell?”

“Well, my dear, I get…to do it!”

“Get to do it?”

“Yes, I get to do it. I get to see the looks of generosity that come upon the faces of people who make decisions to give up something of their own to help someone they will probably never see.”

The mom spoke up. “But don’t you get a bit miffed at all the folk who pretend not to see you as they pass by?”

“No, ma’am! That’s their choice, and you know something?”

“What?”

“I used to be just like that. Kind of a hardened man who didn’t really care about anyone or anything else. I can’t really say how I got to that point but it happened.”

“So…something must have changed.”

“Yes, ma’am! It did, and it was about this time of the year…ten years ago, in fact!” He paused for a moment to greet a young boy and his parents and hand the child one of his candy canes. “My wife, Ellie, came down sick…and I mean really sick! So sick that I carried her out to the car and started to drive her to the hospital. She was in severe pain, moaning and groaning, and all of a sudden as we drove she just passed out.”

“Oh my!”

“As you can tell, I was scared to death and I pulled over to the side of the road, put my flashers on, and tried to revive her. I was frantic! Thank the Good Lord that no more than thirty seconds later a pick-up truck pulled up behind me on the side of the road and a man and his wife got out to see what was going on. I jumped out of the car and screamed about my wife being unresponsive. The woman was a nurse who worked in the ER of the very hospital I was heading to, and she performed CPR on Ellie right there, got her breathing again, and jumped in the car with me as we drove to the hospital. She called ahead and they were waiting for us when we arrived five minutes later.”

The little girl looked up at Mr. Sam and with great concern asked, “Was she okay?”

“Darling, there was something wrong with her heart, but they were able to fix it and she ended up being okay. But you know something, if that couple hadn’t stopped to help it would have been a different story. That day changed me! I guess you could say that the Good Lord got my attention about how selfish I had been. If that had been someone else pulled off the side of the road and I was passing by I wouldn’t have thought twice about them, but just kept on going. But Ellie probably wouldn’t still be alive today if those two people hadn’t helped. Like I said, that day changed me!”

“And that’s why you ring the bell?” asked the mom. “That’s why you greet people with a merry Christmas and hand out candy canes.”

“It’s a simply way that doesn’t take any advanced education, if you know what I mean. The only requirements are being able to ring a bell and be friendly with people. And you know something, ma’am? I enjoy it!”

At that moment a woman was leaving the store and she came by the red kettle. “Here you go, Sam! Tell Ellie I said hello!” She dropped some money into the collection.

“You betcha’, Helen! You working today?”

“Heading there now! Will you stop by and say hello?”

“Absolutely! Maybe I’ll bring you a candy cane!”

“Save those for the kids, Sam!” She walked on across the parking lot.

“Is that one of your neighbors?”

“In  a way!”

The little girl spoke up again. “Mr. Sam, are you going home after you get done ringing your bell?”

“No, I’m heading to the hospital.”

“Is your wife there?”

“No, I go by the pediatric ward…that’s where the sick children stay…and I pass out candy canes and tell them stories to make their day a little brighter.”

“That’s really nice, Mr. Sam,” said the mom. “Is Helen one of the nurses there?”

“Yes, she’s a nurse in the pediatric ward now.”

“How did you meet? Did you meet her when you started volunteering there?”

“No, I knew her before that. She used to be a nurse in the ER.”

The young mom paused and then began, “Is that…is she…?”

“Yes! She’s the one who saved Ellie’s life.” And he gave a wink to the mom and her daughter. “I hope you have a very merry Christmas!” The little girl took two steps to Mr. Sam and hugged him with all her might.

“Merry Christmas, Mr. Sam!”

Norma’s Shoes

December 7, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   December 7, 2015

                                                     

   

Norma Koch was a person of faith…perhaps courageous faith might be the better description. She believed in a Jesus that was not weak and, therefore, she was not to approach her walk with him in a weak way!

A couple of years ago the social worker at Audubon School, down the street from our church, called to say that there was a boy at the school who needed a new pair of shoes. The young lad had a pair of shoes that were literally held together with duct tape. The tape was wrapped around and around each of the shoes to keep them from falling apart. Our church bought him a new pair. A young kid’s feet were singing hallelujah!

That child’s need struck deep within Norma’s heart. The senior living complex she resided in would play Bingo once or twice a week and there were actually “cash winnings!” A quarter here, fifty cents there! Norma began collecting her winnings in a jar with a mission. The mission was to collect the change until there was enough to buy a new pair of shoes for the next child in need.

This past July she turned the money in, and it was deposited into out church’s benevolence fund until the need arose to use it.

And then Norma passed away! Ninety years old…ready to meet the Jesus she followed face-to-face, ready to be done with the aches and pains that had accompanied her for so long. She passed…and entered!

About six weeks after her passing Audubon School called again. A first grade girl was in dire need of a new pair of shoes. Norma’s shoes got bought. A little girl is now wearing “Dora the Explorer” shoes…all sparkly and new on her feet.

Though she is dancing in glory Norma Koch continues to have an impact in this life.

Nine Girl Scouts Dancing

December 15, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                         December 15, 2014

                                             

There are many pictures of Christmas that cross our minds or are caught by our eyes. Holly and mistletoe…egg nog and fruitcake…the mall Santa and front-yard inflatables. We use a number of things to convey the messages of hope, peace, love, and joy. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the proper perspective of things. My daily email box is full of on-line offers for everything from doormats to designer jeans. I’ve never had so many emails from Omaha Steaks!

A few days ago I was driving by the grocery store and I saw a sight that brought joy to my soul. In front of the store was one of the red buckets for The Salvation Army. I could hear the bell being rung.

But then in front of the bucket were nine Girl Scouts dancing round and round in a circle, laughing…enjoying…experiencing a sense of delight as they manned the bucket for a couple of hours. It was a picture of Christmas being lived out. Dancing with joy because of the season’s reason, while performing acts of charity.

Joy in child-like giggles.

Collecting coins and dollar bills to help the impoverished gain a step in the uncertainness of daily living.

Joy-filled charity. A picture of the blessed being a blessing.

Christmas is many things. On the day the girl scouts danced a “grandparently” couple at church lit the advent candle and shared how this past year had included many challenges but many, many more blessings. A dear lady who loves God and people brought me gingerbread cookies shaped like moosely-looking reindeer. In receiving we sought to give, and invited an African-American gentleman from church to join us for lunch.

Joy and delight…giving and receiving…being blessed and being the blessing…all of those are descriptions of Christmas that convey images, actions, feelings, and pictures.

God only knows how much delight those nine girl scouts brought to the customers coming and going from the supermarket, but I know that sparked a flame within my soul that warmed my heart.

 

Shoes for Joey

December 10, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         December 10, 2013

                                          

(The following story is based on something that actually happened to me today. The names suggested, however, are fictitious.)

Mrs. Brown, the school social worker, had a problem. Actually, it seemed like every new day brought a compounding of problems, but today she knew that her problem had two feet and one and a half shoes.

Joey, a fourth grader, had been a little suspect with his school attendance recently. His mom would call in the morning about every other day to say that Joey was ill and wouldn’t be at school that day. The afflictions ranged from a cold to a headache to him running a fever. Over the past month Joey had been to school ten days out of a possible twenty-two.

But today he was there, and Mrs. Brown was starting to piece together some things. Joey had been absent on days when it was cold and snowing, and recently there had been a number of those kind of days. Today the sun had come out to raise the temperature to the upper thirties…a heat wave compared to what they ahd been experiencing.

Joey was at school today, and today Joey’s challenge became clear. Joey needed shoes!

Mrs. Brown got on the phone and called Pastor Mike at the community church down the street, and she told him of her problem.

“I know this is a lot to ask, Pastor, but do you think your church could help? Believe me! Joey’s toes are sticking out of the front of his shoe.”

“I’ll be there in an hour. What size does he wear?”

“Six.”

“Consider it done!”

“Thank you! You don’t know how much this means.”

“Mrs. Brown, whenever there is a need that we can help with put us on speed dial. We consider ourselves to be partners with you in the raising up, caring, and safety of the children of our community.”

“And we need all the help we can get.”

She hung up the phone and breathed a sigh of relief. Joey came from a broken home. He split his time between his mom and his dad. Mrs. Brown was more than a little concerned about him. Sometimes kids come to school wondering if life is going to get any better. It broke her heart especially at this time of the year. So many of the students she dealt with saw Christmas as a depressing time, not a time of joy.

An hour later Pastor Mike got buzzed in through the front door and entered the office with a shoe box in hand.

“I hope these fit.”

“We will soon find out. I’ll have Joey come down to the office to try them on.”

A few minutes later a skinny young boy with a nervous look on his face came into the office. Pastor Mike stood to the side, but noticed that the front of one of Joey’s shoes was held together with duct tape that had been wrapped around and around the shoe like first aid tape trying to bring healing that was beyond it. The tape was fraying and splintering on the sides, and the other shoe looked like it was about to lose the tip. Both shoes were rubbed raw of any tread on the soles.

“Joey, I want you to try these shoes on,” said Mrs. Brown.

Joey had a confused look on his face.

“Go ahead! Just try this one on.”

“But Mrs. Brown, I don’t know if my mom would say I could.”

“I’ll talk to your mom. You let me worry about that part.”

“He slipped his old shoe off and worked his foot slowly into the new shoe with bright shoelaces. A smile rose to the surface.

“Now, I want you to give me your old pair and I’ll take care of them.”

“You don’t think my mom will be mad?”

“Joey, I’ll talk to your mom.”

The young boy thanked the lady and left the office beaming.

“A new pair of shoes,” he thought. “I don’t remember the last time I had a new pair of shoes.”

Mrs. Brown watched him stroll out of the office with a little skip in his step. She looked at Pastor Mike, and with tears streaming down her face she asked, “Did you see the look on his face? I haven’t seen him smile a single time this whole year until today.”

“Think about it, Mrs. Brown. Up until just now every time he looked down at his shoes he was reminded of his poverty. Now he can look at his shoes and be reminded that there’s hope.”